The Australian Broadcasting Corporation is Australia's public broadcaster, providing Australia with one TV station and several radio stations.
I come from an ABC family. For a few years when I was young our TV would only work on the ABC, and it never really seemed to bother any of us. This would be a disaster for most children, but I don't remeber it bothering us at all. We had the Goodies, Doctor Who and Countdown; what more did we need? These days I still look at what's on ABC first, and only if I don't like that will I look to other channels, and even when it comes to radio I haven't been able to tolerate listening to a non-ABC radio station since I was nineteen.
The ABC does rely fairly heavily on imported shows, mostly from the BBC. Sometimes this has meant endless repeats of Dad's Army, but usually it brings the high quality British dramas that the commercial channels don't touch because everyone's wearing old clothes (I, Claudius, Brideshead Revisited and The Singing Detective, to name a few). Despite continual budget cuts the ABC has, however, also managed to produce some high quality shows of its own.
ABC dramas tend to be less glossy and more realistic than their commercial TV counterparts, and generally feature much better writing. ABC dramas and miniseries include The Brides of Christ, The True Believers, SeaChange, MDA, Phoenix, Janus, Wildside and Blue Murder.
The ABC has, in many ways, led the field in Australian comedy. While the commercial stations attempt sitcoms on the American model and unfailingly produce unfunny embarrasments, the ABC has produced comedies in a range of formats, including sketch shows (Australia, You're Standing In It, The D-Generation, The Late Show and the Micallef Show), satire (The Gilles Report, Frontline, The Games, Grass Roots), the occasional Australian sitcom that is actually funny (Mother and Son) and other comedy shows that are harder to classify (The Money Or The Gun, Good News Week, Live and Sweaty).
Current affairs is another area in which the ABC excels. While there are some accusations of left-wing bias levelled at the ABC from time to time, the standard of journalism is miles ahead of that found on the commercial stations and is rivalled in Australia only by the SBS. ABC current affairs shows include 4 Corners, Foreign Correspondent, the 7:30 Report and Lateline.
Despite all the high quality drama, comedy and current affiars the ABC produces and televises, it performs poorly in the ratings, with most Australians preferring the commercial channels with their lifestyle programs, game shows, reality shows and American imports. The demographic that the ABC performs best with, when compared with the commercial channels, is children. During the day, while the commercial channels are broadcasting home shopping shows and American soap operas, the ABC broadcasts kids shows, both Australian (Mr Squiggle, Play School and Bananas in Pyjamas) and imported (Seaseme Street, the Teletubbies).
Of course, there is more to the ABC than TV. ABC radio comprises a network of stations across Australia, and broadcasts both locally and nationally, and in many parts of country Australia ABC radio is just about the only thing going.
Radio National is the most high-brow of ABC radio stations, providing current affairs and discussion programs, and is broadcast nationally. ABC Local Radio provides some of the same current affairs shows as Radio National (like AM and PM), as well as talkback and some music. Each city and region has its own ABC Local Radio station. ABC News Radio provides news around the clock, with regular updates and broadcasts many foreign news services, such as BBC Newshour and NPR's All Things Considered.
The ABC also offers two music stations. ABC Classic FM offers classical music (obviously) and Triple J is the ABC's youth network, and for the most part plays new, indie-style music, leaving Britney Spears and the golden oldies to the commercial radio stations. Both are broadcast nationally.